907 SW 9th Ave., 206-5317; 1428 NE Broadway, 281-6389; benessereoil.com.
Oh, to be innocent and skinflinty again, and not know just what a difference the right oil or vinegar makes. Benessere allows no such comforts: You are left mostly alone amid the metal casks to sample with tiny cups. You could fill yourself with oils, from Persian lime and harissa infusions to robust Spanish melgarejo picual, and vinegars from espresso-aged balsamic to pinot noir red wine. There’s also oil infused with butter, to confuse your senses into oblivion. When you’re all done, you’ll feel like an olive. And you will have three little $16 bottles under your arm and a lot of good intentions. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shopping list: Just allot yourself a half-hour in the store. You’ll come out of there looking like the coast of New Orleans.
6031 SE Belmont St., 222-6014, cheese-bar.com. Closed Monday.
Combining a beautifully curated selection of beers and wines with a cheese shop is Nobel-worthy brilliance. But just as the cheese comes before the bar in its name, the Cheese Bar considers itself first and foremost a cut-to-order retail cheese counter and artisan deli. And it’s not unusual to find the mastermind himself, cheesemonger Steve Jones, serving you personally, so feel free to fire away with questions about the perfect cheesy accompaniment for your Orval Trappist Ale or the ideal beverage to balance your soft-ripened Camembert. PENELOPE BASS.
Shopping list: American artisanal cheeses, fine beer on tap.
115 NW 22nd Ave., 299-6304; 5221 SW Corbett Ave., 937-1075; 812 SW Park Ave., 546-3166; elephantsdeli.com.
Elaine Rhine Tanzer couldn’t even find enough local cheese in existence to fill her shelves back in 1979, when she started the first deli in Portland devoted to local artisanal foods, and so had to resort to the craft cheeses of the East. No such problems lately, but the shop now includes plenty of salumi and cheeses from the Old World as well as the New. The shop, nonetheless maintains an admirable focus on local wares. MATTHEW KORFHAGE
Shopping list: Olives, jams, spanish cheese, Italian salami.
1217 SE Stark St., 233-3910, foodfightgrocery.com.
Food Fight isn’t a fight at all. It’s where your best and worst food impulses come to co-exist—peacefully—in the form of organic vegan taquitos and lasagna, not to mention fake ice cream and fake nachos, and organic tortilla chips. Hell, there are vegan pet snacks. It is a world where everything can be vegan, even the things that should never have been meat. But the milk section is a boon not just to the vegan but the lactose intolerant, with a selection spanning rice, almond, soy and hemp milks. And, as expected, there is plenty of kombucha. MATTHEW KORFHAGE
Shopping list: MoonBrine pickles, kale chips, fake citrus sparerib, “I’m vegan and I poop 3 times a day” sticker.
Foster & Dobbs Authentic Foods
2518 NE 15th Ave., 284-1157, fosteranddobbs.com.
When you want cherry-picked ingredients to impress the ladies, this tiny Northeast market has all kinds of things to covertly Google on your smartphone while pretending to consult a shopping list. Things that might catch your eye include Cardamaro amaro (herbal wine-based spirit flavored with cardoons and thistle), umami paste (Italian tomato paste with pureed porcini, anchovies and Parmesan) and verjus (sweet-tart juice made from unripe grapes). You can also find real balsamic vinegar (not the flavored crap), and wines mostly in the $20-to-$30 range, in addition to plenty of cheeses and cured meats in the deli case from Fino in Fondo to Chop to Fermin, available either to-go or in made-to-order sandwiches and salads. LIZ CRAIN.
Shopping list: Dandelion Chocolate bars, squid ink pasta, Pok Pok drinking vinegars, Amarena Toschi cherries, honey wine vinegar.
Limbo & Stone Cottage Herbs
Stone Cottage: 8609 SE 17th Ave., 719-6658, herbsspicesteas.com. Limbo: 211 SW 9th Ave.
Limbo was some serious old-school Portland, the ur-organic grocery near Reed College, and over the years it amassed an herb-and-spice rack that went about 2,000 deep, a wood-cubby forest of jars filled with stomach easers and tongue-tinglers. When it closed in 2011, one of its former employees, Joshua Stephens, filled the gap by starting Stone Cottage Herbs near the old Limbo.
Fast-forward to late 2013. Stephens has moved Stone Cottage down to Sellwood right next to a little yard that hosts farmers markets with occasional goats, and focused even more tightly on teas, herbs and spices, with more than 1,000 of them in jars both little and big, from barbecue adobo and Thai soup blends to sencha or piña colada teas to concoctions that skew to the much more medicinal: liver-cleanse tea, ashwagandha root, black haw and blue flag. Most food spices cost between $1 and $2 an ounce, while the medicines vary more widely. A little table acts as both weighing station and resource center, with herb books and a scale. There’s a little coffee shop, but it’s a bit fussy as a hang out.
Meanwhile, Limbo’s original owners have moved into the West End with a tiny fresh-produce shop, a fruit juice and smoothie stand and an herb shop. They’ve been building their spice and herb library back up, though it’s nowhere near what it was—the shop’s lifeblood is in the juicer and occasional fruit specials. So while Limbo is a much sunnier, friendlier place to relax with some fruit juice, the student has exceeded the master on the herb front. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shopping list: Tamarind pods, Marshall’s Haute Sauce, cider mulling spice.
3731 N Mississippi Ave., 288-4633; 805 NW 23rd Ave., 305-3388; atthemeadow.com.
What’s in a name? An entire career, maybe. Mark Bitterman lives up to his own surname at the Meadow, where a ridiculously vast selection of bitters takes up more space than the liquor shelves at some cocktail bars. From Old Man Gangsta Lee’n bacon bitters to the New Orleans Bittermens bitters (no relation to Bitterman). But there is also the salt, which makes up not just a shelving wall but one of the actual walls of the Northwest 23rd Avenue location—light is filtered pink through blocks of Himalayan salt—and the vast selection of chocolates. Nothing is cheap, but that’s also the advertisement: Nothing tastes cheap, either. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shopping list: Salt, chocolate, salted chocolate, chocolate bitters, wine.
The Olive and Vine
8711 N Lombard St., 285-2686, theoliveandvine.com. Closed Monday-Tuesday.
The best part about visiting the Olive and Vine, across the street from the St. Johns Twin Cinemas, is tasting all of the specialty salts and vinegars. Various salts are available to sample in small glass dishes, and the vinegars—ranging from Champagne to blackberry balsamic—are all laid out in sample dropper jars. Big glass canisters of loose-leaf teas also line the shelves of this tiny shop, along with imported olives and olive oils, tins of anchovies and more. Even though most of the products are on the spendy side, they’re parsed out into small, affordable amounts—lots of tiny bags of salt for $2 to $3—making it a great place to shop for culinary gifts. LIZ CRAIN.
Shopping list: Applewood-smoked salt, anchovy-stuffed Manzanilla olives, drinking vinegars, unusual baking extracts.
NEW! P’s and Q’s
1301 NE Dekum St., 894-8979, psandqsmarket.com.
This sweet market and deli next to Woodlawn Park, owned by neighborhood couple 29-year-old Emily Anderson and 30-year-old Paul Davis, is all about affordable, locally made, tasty food and drink. Anderson and Davis wanted a market in their ’hood, so they opened it shortly after Anderson learned the ropes by helping open and work at the Woodsman Market—although P’s & Q’s is both less precious and more diverse in its offerings. The deli case, run by Davis, is filled with everything from housemade lemon marmalade and bay-leaf custard to deviled eggs and cured meats, along with a menu of tasty soups, salads, sandwiches, wine and beer. In the market run by Anderson are house-wrapped cheeses, a wide array of mostly local hard cider, beer and wine, baskets of produce, fresh bundles of herbs as well as a small bulk section with grains, rice and nuts. LIZ CRAIN.
Shopping list: Bunches of Emerald Petals flowers, MoonBrine pickles, housemade pie, Grand Central bread, bunch of watercress.
3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 232-1010; 735 NW 21st Ave., 221-3002; pastaworks.com.
Everything inside this pair of boutique groceries is lovely and useful, from the tiny early-season morel mushrooms plucked up young and tender (and, at $36 a pound, priced like the veal of ’shrooms) to robust late-season blood oranges so large they manage to cost $3 apiece. Most people couldn’t do all their shopping here—and bully for those who do pull live Maine lobsters from an open tank to pair with a $7 bottle of Birra Lurisia, the malty cousin of the Italian mineral water. But you can select a number of rarities, like bags of coffee from old school Italian-style roaster Umbria, which tends to be on the medium-dark to dark range of the roast spectrum; it’s wonderful in an espresso machine. MARTIN CIZMAR.
Shopping list: Shellfish, Italian beer, mushrooms, Italian-style dark roast coffee.
120 NW 10th Ave., 227-6777; 11322 SE 82nd Ave., 653-7779; 11787 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, 643-7430; penzeys.com.
Wisconsin-based Penzeys has a delightfully Midwestern approach to spices: They’re both approachable and accessible, with some of the most flavorful peppercorns or herbs around priced like it’s no big thing, with just as much care taken sourcing the fajita seasoning as the garam masala. Their spices versus supermarket spices are pretty much the difference between local vine-ripened tomatoes and the ones that arrive in a freezer truck. Neat wooden boxes hold little apothecary jars that look like they contain magic, and smell like it, too. That Wisconsin bore Penzeys allows me to forgive it for also producing Packers fans. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shopping list: Their Northwoods seasoning is like a pair of blue jeans. It ain’t fancy and it goes with almost everything. But if you feel fancy, get some Chinese cassia cinnamon or Berbere powder or something.
The Woodsman Market
4529 SE Division St., 971-373-8267, woodsmantavern.com.
The Woodsman Market at first seemed exotic and superfluous amid Duane Sorenson’s own private restaurant row on upper Division Street. Now the shop is a neighborhood mainstay, a browsing hall of little luxuries united by being pretty—a museum for fresh food and pickled treats, whether garlicky Duker’s or herbal Boat Street—and a place to pick through baubles while waiting for an excellent sandwich that rotates with the stock. Don’t shop for a meal here; shop for a picnic. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Shopping list: Duker’s Dills pickled carrots, cured ham, water buffalo cheese.